The Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) Presidents, Ndaba Gaolathe and Dumelang Saleshando have criticised President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s style of leadership, likening it to a dictatorship.
The two leaders feel that Masisi has failed to uphold the Constitution and is making unilateral decisions to the detriment of other stakeholders in the development of the country. They believe that Botswana currently falls short of representing a true democracy and its Constitution is just a document only serving the powers that be.
Giving a public lecture under the theme: “We, the people” on Thursday night at the University of Botswana (UB) Library Auditorium in a collaborative event organised by the Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development (YALDA) UB branch, Motheo o mosha and University of Botswana debate masters, among others, Gaolathe outright dismissed the Botswana Constitution for all its flaws. He cited the glaring lack of separation of powers between the Executive, Legislature, and the Judiciary.
“The is no commitment in Botswana to separate powers of government. Botswana is a dictatorship. Botswana is a tyranny,” he said.
According to the softspoken leader separation of powers is what builds great nations, and in its absence, tyranny brews. “In Botswana the President controls both the Executive and Legislative processes. The Executive creates laws and implements them all by itself,” said Gaolathe, adding that according to latest developments it is clear that the Executive has now ursuped control of the Judiciary.
Critising Masisi, Gaolathe said the judiciary was the last hope for the country, but it is currently embroiled in a mess since Masisi started pounding in search of control over it. “This pounding is more than just a plight but an emerging cancer with potential to paralyse Botswana,” warned Gaolathe.
Gaolathe further observed that the fundamentals of Botswana’s Constitution do not cater for liberty, fairness, equality and justice. To this end, he buttressed the manner of governing is what a Constitution encapsulates. Furthermore, the AP president lambasted the Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) for being an extension of the Executive. He decried that the DIS has become unchecked and too powerful.
In addition, he observed that Parliament lacks independence and does not make laws but rather rubberstamps bills presented by the Executive. He complained that there are no legislative drafters, and the legislatie function of MPs has been relegated the Executive arm of government. “Parliament has no capacity to monitor the economy and all of government. It has no sector specialists and is so disempowered,” bemoaned Gaolathe, arguing that MPs who sit in the Executive should not have voting rights. In addition, he queried why all oversight institutions remain Executive branches.
Corroborating Gaolathe’s views, attorney Diba Diba expressed concern that the Constitutional Review process has excluded other stakeholders and therefore is wholy owned by the President. “This is an important task that requires participation by everyone’’ said Diba, expressing concern that Commissioners were unilaterally appointed by Masisi.
The former Law Society of Botswana chairman said the issue of separation of powers must be addressed. He, therefore, similarly proposed that cabinet should not come from Parliament. He explained that for accountability, the President should be able to appoint people from outside Parliament to serve as ministers, but not as elected MPs. Likewise, the lawyer noted that the President should be directly elected.
On the independence of the Judiciary, Diba said judicial independence should be enhanced by proper mechanisms to avoid state capture. “The Judge President, Chief Justice and the Attorney General are all appointed by the President and make up the judicial commission which appoints Judges,” he said. Diba further expounded that in turn, the judicial commission appoints Judges of the High Court. “They owe allegiance to the President,’’ he contended.
A University of Botswana lecturer, Mokaloba Mokaloba, ( Political and Administrative Studies) shares the same view that Botswana is under a dictatorship.”It is an executive led dictatorship since the constitution gives unchecked powers to the Executive,” he said.
Similarly, MP for Maun West, Saleshando raised similar concerns about Masisi and his administration when he presented in the same public lecture a fortnight ago. He said the ongoing Constitutional review is flawed and a waste of public funds.
Saleshando revealed that Masisi refsued to engage opposition leaders before the constitutional review could commence. Opposition leaders had proposed to Masisi to convene a stakeholder engagement conference to gather divergent views on the terms of reference for the review. Masisi rejected their proposal and proceeded to assemble the commission without gathering stakeholder views, said Saleshando.
Decrying lack of inclusivity, the BCP leader said although their efforts proved futile, they suggested that the National Assembly should be engaged. Regarding the envisaged constitutional review, he emphasised that the report on the findings by the commission will be presented to Masisi who may prefer to keep them to himself and not share with MPs as he is not mandated to do so.
Furthermore, Saleshando highlighted that MPs are in the dark regarding the process and what has been its findings so far, despite that all stakeholders should have been taken on board. According to the BCP president, the process of constitutional review was flawed from the onset which is a great anomaly in the case of Botswana. He added that, regarding separation of powers, Masisi has fared badly as well in that many Judges are Presidential appointees. Additionally, Saleshando said currently, nothing has changed because the President is still immune to prosecution and there is an iron curtain around him. “We lost time and money on an unnecessary national tour,” he bemoaned.
According to Saleshando, Botswana should push for direct election of a President, calling for the lifting of presidential immunity as it is abused and does not provide recourse to citizens in the event they have been violated by the incumbent.
The outspoken MP said when Botswana attained independence in 1966, it was handed a template Constitution by its former colonisers and like many UK colonies, what is reflected in the Constitution is basically the same. He said there was no public discourse or acceptance. He observed that despite side-lining the public, Botswana still fared well because what it had could still deliver the basics.
According to Saleshando, however, it allowed for discrimination in several ways. He noted that racial minorities and the right to language are two such examples which expose the shortcomings of the current Constitution. “The Constitution needs to be aligned to the needs of the people. To this point, it has had too many piece meal amendments and lacks elegance. We need a second transition, the first one was adopted from colonial masters,” he said.
Saleshando stated that reforms should point to a deeper democracy and align with international instruments. However, responding to questions from the floor, he said they have noting to do with findings of the commission on the constitutional review.
“It’s all in the hands of the President and (as the BCP) we reject any process that takes off in such a flawed manner,’’ said Saleshando speaking on whether BCP will endorse the recommendations.